Kenny's Korner- What is Love?

by Kenny Rader

How do you love?

Have you considered your answer to that question? What is love? Go ahead. Pause. Think about it before reading on. What is love?

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines love as a noun and a verb. Love as a noun (partial listing of the definition)

1. a: (1) strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.   

(2) attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers.   

(3) affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests. As in love for one’s old schoolmates.     

b: an assurance of affection. As to give someone love.

2. Warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion. The love of the sea.

Love as a verb (partial listing of the definition)

1. To hold dear: cherish

2. To feel a lover’s passion, devotion, or tenderness for How does your definition comp are to Webster’s?

What is the emotion of love?

While scientists and creationists will continue to argue over the earth's and mankind's origins, can scientists explain where love originated? They say humans evolved over millions of years of evolution but where did love originate? From where do humanity’s emotions come? How does one define an emotion as originating?

Does love spring out of the mind? The heart? The stomach? When you feel the emotion of love, it seems to come out of, or at least affect these three areas. Love twists the mind in ways that one's being and thoughts are distorted. Sometimes someone thinks they see things in another person that are not there, or one’s eyes are blinded by love so as not to perceive apparent flaws that others easily see.

When in love, the heart aches, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in painful ways.  The chest feels pressure that results in one’s joyfulness, but the chest can also experience anxiety and pain as in having a heart attack because of love’s painfulness.

When in love, one's stomach can have a sickening feeling. Sometimes it's the feeling of butterflies as on a first date or the expectation of asking for one’s hand in marriage.

If you’ve loved, then you’ve experienced all these emotions, yet it's unlikely you can explain the feeling of love because it is so complex.

The Bible’s view of love

The Bible looks at love differently. Jesus speaks of love as a commandment. In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, He says,

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45a that you may be children of your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:44-45a (NIV)

The Bible, in this manner, does not speak of love as an emotion because it's difficult to have emotional love in the mind, heart, and stomach for one's enemies. Jesus, instead, speaks of love as a command. Maybe a good explanation is that Christians don't have to like their enemies, but they must love them, as in treating them well, with respect, and with kindness, even though others do not return that love.

Examine how Jesus treated His enemies. He expressed love toward them. Nearing the end of His ministry, He called them a brood of vipers (Matthew 12:34), yet Jesus said it in an attempt to get their attention, not in hate. Late in Jesus’ ministry, James and John wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan city that rejected Jesus, but Jesus rebuked James’ and John’s attitude of harming those that refused Him (Luke 9:54-55). In the same way, Jesus did not call on legions of angels to rescue Him from the cross. Rather, He cried out for His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Jesus' actions coincide with His Father's greatest two commandments.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

When applying Jesus' teaching, your neighbor is anyone you meet, whether they live close by or in an inconsequential meeting with someone. Jesus says His Father's love expresses and demonstrates kindness and compassion toward everyone, whether a spouse, a child, a friend, or a foe.

But what about emotional love?

How does a person understand emotional love, and is it genuine, biblical love? How does one apply emotional love to others in a godly manner? While the Apostle Paul likely speaks of biblical love in his first letter to the church at Corinth, one can also apply it to one’s emotional love in a friendship or marriage. The 1 Corinthian 13 passage is often read at weddings and is essential for emotional love between people.

Let's take the time to read it.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

How do you fair in applying this passage to all your relations with others? How about in your marriage? How about with your children? How about with the slow waitress or the obnoxious store employee?

Your love relationship

Whether speaking of biblical or emotional love in a relationship, you are to treat the other person as God teaches. Yet how often do you fail at applying biblical love to that special person to whom you're committed? You might consider yourself the greatest of Christ's followers, yet if you fail to love that special person genuinely as the Apostle Paul describes, you are empty inside. You’re hollow. You're a clanging bell that has no sound. Likewise, faith in God is dead without genuine love for that special one in life. 1 Corinthian 13 love is not only emotional, but also love that demonstrates kindness and compassion. It’s servanthood love as Jesus exhibited for you.

Emotional love for another is patient when your loved one is slow or late. Love for that special person in your life does not dishonor him or her by making jokes at their expense. It's love that does not put oneself over their desires and needs. It's love that does not laugh at their cost. It's love that does not keep score and has no record of wrongdoings. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV).

The cost of love

As earlier stated, love is often painful. It’s the result of living in a fallen world. While love most often brings joy, even ecstatic joy at times, love also comes with a cost that cuts to the core of one's being, almost to the point of death. A love relationship that falls apart often results in a feeling of devastation. While no one wants to hear of a suicide, isn't taking one's life the result of the lack of being loved or the feeling one is not loved? Isn’t suicide often the absence of hope for future love?

Love stinks at times. Whether it’s a broken relationship or death that causes the end of a relationship, the most beautiful of God’s creations, love, can result in one’s emotional devastation. In his letter to the Corinthian Church, the Apostle Paul writes concerning Jesus’ resurrection and the hope it gives.

54b “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 (NIV)

Paul ends the passage on a high note in speaking about Jesus' victory over death, but he mentions the sting of death. He says the sting of death is the result of sin, yet Christ defeated that sting. But if we look at the sting of death as a physical and emotional reality, that sting is felt both by the loved one who died and the person or family that has lost that loved one.

Once a Christian passes from this world, they no longer feel the sting of death. They no longer experience the pain or suffering. They have passed from this world into the realms of God and Jesus. However, the sting of death has only begun for the remaining loved ones. Some people quickly pass from the emotionally, painful sting, while others feel the sting for a year, several years, decades, or even their lifetime. No one can tell another how they will experience the emotional sting of death. Each one has to walk that dark journey themselves, and it’s a lonely journey until one passes through it and emerges on the other side.

Until death do we part

Read the following wedding vow and insert your name and the name of your loved one.

I, (name), take you (name), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

As a couple says their wedding vows, they make the promise. Still, unless they have experienced poverty or a time of extreme financial suffering, unless they have experienced a prolonged sickness that resulted in the death of a loved one, they likely have no idea the stress of finances or the struggles a long illness can place on a marriage or relationship, they cannot fathom what might lay ahead. Yet, it is often the fire of those difficulties that refines love, and after coming through the fire, they realize the fire is their friend and purifies their love. These difficulties can be one's friend or enemy. They can be the best of times, the worst of times, or both, but the couple must experience the fire, not because they are evil, but because this world is a fallen, sinful world. Love can be extremely painful.

Is love worth that risk?

Each person must answer that question for themselves. God created each individual differently, and everyone will respond to their difficulties in various ways. Some will mature through the pain, while others will buckle. Some will make it through the painfulness of love to say they will never return there again, while others say the risk of love is worth the pain a second, third, fourth time, or more. 


Consider this. When God created Adam and Eve, He already knew them and you. God not only knew Adam and Eve would sin, He knew you would sin, and He decided the painfulness of love was worth it. God and Jesus had their love plan in place long before He created the earth and all its people. God and Jesus knew Jesus had to die on the cross for humanity's sins. That’s love. Jesus loved you long before you loved Him. The cost of Jesus’ love for you was the most painful death ever experienced, yet He loves you that much.

Can you love?

When looking at the risk and cost of love for another, can you love as Jesus loves? Are you willing to risk that kind of love? Are you willing to work hard to love others, your spouse, and your best friend in the biblical kind of love Jesus commands? Are you willing to emotionally love another person while applying the teachings of Jesus and expressing love in that manner to another? No one can answer that question but you.

How are you loving?

So, how are you doing with expressing that kind of love? How are you doing today? How did you do yesterday? How will you do tomorrow? Love takes a lot of work, but if you love the way Jesus loves, love is worth it. Love is worth the risk.


Love you